Academic journal article International Journal of Men's Health

Narratives of Sexual Negotiation among Men Living with HIV in a South African Rural Setting

Academic journal article International Journal of Men's Health

Narratives of Sexual Negotiation among Men Living with HIV in a South African Rural Setting

Article excerpt

This article explores narratives of sexual negotiation among a group of South African men living with HIV in order to ascertain the impact of HIV diagnosis and illness on their constructions of masculinity. Sex features prominently in constructions and performances of masculinity in South Africa. Walker, Reid and Cornel (2004) describe dominant constructions of masculinity centred on uncontrollable sexual drive, having multiple sexual partners and coercive sex. Ratele (2011) links "compulsory heterosexuality" centred on penetrative sex and penis size with homophobic attitudes. Other scholars view sexual behaviour of South African men as being shaped by socio-economic circumstances like unemployment and economic marginalisation (Hunter, 2010; Selikow, Zulu & Cedras, 2002; Wood & Jewkes, 2001). Several scholars have noted the association of sex with masculine domination when it is enacted through violence and coercive sex (Jewkes, Levin & PennKekana, 2002; Gibson, Dinan & McCall, 2005; Lecler-Madlala, 2005; Niehaus, 2005).

With South Africa having the largest number of people living with HIV in the world relative to population size, it is no surprise that current research and HIV intervention programmes are targeting men, in order to change HIV-risk behaviour associated with constructions of masculinity (Dworkin, Colvin, Hatcher, & Peacock, 2013; Peacock & Levack, 2009). However, the sexual behaviour of men living with HIV remains a largely neglected area of research, except in relation to their reproductive health (Taylor, Mantell, Nywagi, Cishe, & Cooper, 2009) and condom negotiation (Mfecane, 2013). Research that covers aspects of men's sexuality in Africa is limited since it is based on group discussions where group consensus and masculine "performances" are likely to shape men's narratives (Lynch, Brouard & Visser, 2010). There is a need for researchers to study the real life experiences of negotiating sex with women, the strategies used to negotiate sex and their outcomes. Such an exploration can shed further light on the topic of masculine transformation as it operates in the arena of men's health, sexuality and HIV/AIDS.

Theoretical Framework

Debating Hegemonic Masculinity

Connell's concept of hegemonic masculinity has been very influential in South African research on men and AIDS (Dworkin, Flemming, & Colvin, 2015). The concept of hegemonic masculinity was originally conceptualised as "the form of masculinity in given society-wide setting that structures and legitimates hierarchical gender relations between men and women, between masculinity and femininity, and between men..." (Messerschmidt, 2012, p. 58). In South Africa this concept is largely used as an exploratory device to unpack and theorise men's behaviours that contributes to HIV-risk behaviour, like violence against women, condom refusal, rape, and gender domination (Lindegger & Quayle, 2010). Research links this behaviour to dominant constructions of masculinity that have been shaped by a history of racial oppression, migrant labour, poverty, and some cultural beliefs (Jewkes & Morrell, 2010). However, the research on hegemonic masculinity in South Africa also contributed to the critique of the concept as it pointed out that in South Africa there is no single form of hegemonic masculinity; rather there are multiple versions shaped and crosscut by politics and race (Morrell, Jewkes & Lindegger, 2012).

Hegemonic masculinity is a contested concept (Connell & Messerschmidt, 2005) and the contestations are important to consider in order to clarify its use in this study. The most relevant of these debates for the present article centre on the meaning of "hegemony" and its implications for theorising gender power relationships in the world. Hegemony generally refers to the ascendency of one form of masculinity (hegemonic masculinity) over other masculinities, exemplified by ascendency of heterosexual men over gay men in the current western gender order (Demetriou, 2001, p. …

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